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Biochar in the Policy Arena: How to Get Involved!

IBI is constantly engaged in the international policy and selected domestic policy arenas where we currently have a presence. We continuously receive many offers from enthusiastic biochar supporters asking how to engage in promoting appropriate policies for sustainable biochar production and utilization systems within national and international policy frameworks. Below are some suggestions and resources that we have for support and engagement. 

Biochar in the US Domestic Policy Front

(1)  Educate Federal, State, and Local Lawmakers and Policymakers About Biochar

In the United States, IBI has been working to educate lawmakers and policymakers about the potential of biochar as a sustainable climate mitigation and adaptation tool, as well as one that can enhance the soil resource and provide multiple ancillary environmental and ecosystem benefits. Additional support educating others about the merits of biochar is perhaps the most important thing that you can do, as a participant in the biochar community.

Action: Contact your elected officials at the federal, state and local level to educate them about biochar and its many attributes. 
• IBI has developed 1 page factsheets for your use.
• IBI has also developed information in a question and answer format which is common to the types of questions you may be asked.
• Also, see IBI Board Chairman Dr. Johannes Lehmann’s recent testimony on biochar before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, delivered on June 18, 2009. 
• If you do not see the type of information you need here, please contact us at info@biochar-international.org.

(2) Biochar R&D Program in the 2008 Farm Bill: 

IBI worked with members of the US Congress to include a new high-priority research program that became law in the 2008 Farm Bill. The R&D Biochar Program is in the Research Title of the Farm Bill, and the language is as follows:

“Grants may be made under this section for research, extension, and integrated activities relating to the study of biochar production and use, including considerations of agronomic and economic impacts, synergies of co-production with bioenergy, and the value of soil enhancements and soil carbon sequestration.”

This language authorizes this new program in law, but USDA has not yet created the program or sought funding for it.

Action: Urge USDA to request funding for biochar in their budget, and urge lawmakers in the House and Senate to appropriate the funds to implement this important R&D program. 

(3) Biochar in US Cap-and-Trade Legislation

IBI has been working with members of Congress to incorporate appropriate language on biochar policies within pending cap-and-trade legislation. The most important thing you can do right now is to educate members about biochar, and why it should be included in US cap-and-trade legislation as a mitigation and adaptation tool to enhance reduced emissions of greenhouse gases with ancillary environmental benefits, as well as to enhance the US soil resource upon which our food, renewable fuel and fiber supply are so dependant. 

Action: Contact your national representatives to urge them to include biochar as an eligible offset within cap-and-trade legislation. Offsets within cap-and-trade legislation provide valuable GHG emissions reductions from uncapped sectors of the economy (in this case, the agricultural and forestry sectors), and provide cost-containment for the entire cap-and-trade program, while also offering income generation opportunities for the agricultural sector and rural economies. Biochar offers significant potential GHG emissions reductions and income generation opportunities, if the appropriate supportive policies are included in legislation. 

Biochar in the International UN Policy Front

IBI has been working in the UNFCCC and with our partners in the UNCCD to incorporate appropriate policies to help develop the potential of biochar as a climate mitigation and adaptation tool and as a method to help reverse land degradation and desertification globally, but also particularly within dryland regions of the world, where soils are significantly lacking in carbon. Additionally, IBI seeks eligibility for biochar systems as a credited emissions reduction technology, as well as financing for biochar systems in developing countries. 

(1) Educate UNFCCC and UNCCD Delegates About Biochar

Additional support educating countries and delegates about the merits of biochar is perhaps the most important thing that you can do, as a participant in the international biochar community. Within the UNFCCC, there has been a significant amount of misinformation about biochar and the potential for biochar as a climate change mitigation and adaptation technology, and the ancillary environmental, sustainability, soil, and ecosystem benefits of biochar. 

Action: Contact your country’s delegates to the UNFCCC and UNCCD to educate them about the merits of sustainable biochar systems in developed and developing countries as a means to mitigate and adapt to climate change while enhancing the global soil resource. Urge them to continue to work cooperatively to support demonstration projects, field trials, and other methods to further investigate the potential of biochar systems. 

(2) Urge your UNFCCC and UNCCD Delegates to support existing biochar text in the draft Copenhagen negotiating text of the UNFCCC

Action: To help get appropriately recognized and supported at the international level, ask your members and representatives of legislative bodies to support existing language on biochar within the draft Copenhagen negotiating text of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The language is included in the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) section of the text, in the form of an R&D program in the agricultural sector, between developed and developing countries, to pursue the potential for biochar systems in drylands to both reduce GHG emissions and enhance the soil resource. 

The text states: “Agriculture: 134.  Parties shall cooperate in R&D of mitigation technologies for the agriculture sector, recognizing the necessity for international cooperative action to enhance and provide incentives for mitigation of GHG emissions from agriculture, in particular in developing countries. Consideration should be given to the role of soils in carbon sequestration, including through the use of biochar and enhancing carbon sinks in drylands.

For the latest update on the status of the negotiations and this text, see the IBI international policy page.

IBI Wants to Hear From You

Please help IBI by letting us know about other policy opportunities for biochar production and utilization systems. If you know of any biochar-specific policies in your country or region, please send them to us so we can include them in the policy section of our website. If you want to find our more about what is happening in your area and you don’t see your country listed, try contacting one of the regional biochar groups in your area as they will often have more information.